More 'Elf 'n' safety' nonsense in the Mail

‘Cathedral spends £140,000 on hundreds of wooden chairs… because PLASTIC seats ‘are a fire hazard” writes the Mail On Sunday Reporter. Of course, this seems like absolute madness, given that wood is generally seen as being more flammable than plastic. However, as always, a quick read of the article reveals that the headline is absolute rubbish:

officials say the fabric covers are a fire hazard…

Cathedral steward Les West said safety chiefs had claimed the same chair material was responsible for a fire at Bristol Cathedral.

Obviously, ‘fabric covers’ as a fire risk is a completely different proposition from the ‘plastic chairs’ used in the headline, but the reporter tries to imply that it was only a claim that the same chair material caused a fire elsewhere. A quick read of a more detailed article – from the Worcester News website – sheds more light on this ‘claim’:

Cathedral steward Les West said the same type of chair was now considered a fire risk and had been responsible for blazes causing damage in other cathedrals, including Bristol.

So the fabric was responsible for causing fires in other cathedrals, rather than merely being linked to just one fire in Bristol. No wonder the ‘journalist’ preferred an anonymous byline. The same steward goes on to say:

“They were showing signs of wear as well as being a fire risk, so we decided that we would replace them over the next three years. “

It is simply part of the ongoing work carried out on the cathedral, it is mentioned in the cathedral newsletter [pdf] – without any reference to the decision being forced upon the cathedral by ‘safety chiefs’ – probably because they are not being forced to abandon the current chairs, rather that they see the fire risks posed by the chairs as another good reason to phase in new wooden seating. Also referred to in the same newsletter is the generous amounts of money gifted to the cathedral in wills (four donations alone totalled £137,000) for precisely this kind of continual renewal of fixtures and fittings.

Increasingly there seems to be two main kinds of ‘journalism’:

  1. Churnalism – the act of copying and pasting PR / wire copy.
  2. Local news sifting – a story covered by the local press is taken by a national newspaper, stripped of context, detail and – above all – journalistic integrity and slotted into an existing media narrative (in this case, the story is distorted until ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ can be blamed.

Both of them are anti-journalism.

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